Israel’s Conference for Democracy 2021

The annual Haaretz newspaper’s Conference for Democracy was co-sponsored this year by Zulat and the New Israel FundThe conference was held in the presence of President Yitzhak Herzog, and attended by hundreds of participants, including government ministers, Knesset members, academics, and representatives of civil society organizations.

President Herzog said in his opening remarks: “Israeli democracy has firmly withstood the stormy winds of recent years and retained its qualities. I want to talk about the threats it faces, the biggest of which is the erosion of the public’s trust in it.”

Zehava Galon, president of Zulat, said in her opening remarks:

The State of Israel cannot live with a chokehold around the neck of 20 percent of its citizens, just as it will not be able to go on living with a chokehold around the neck of millions of Palestinians, as it has done through 54 years of occupation. Ahead of us is an opportunity to advance a civic agenda that strives for national and civic equality andwhere security forces protect the state but do not run the lives of the citizens, to promote an agenda that is based on partnership and equality between Jews and Arabs, and to work toward the finalization of a humane and progressive constitution that will entrench the protection of human rights.

NIF’s executive director Mickey Gitzin said in his address: There is no change without a struggle. What seems obvious to us is the fruit of a stubborn and not always popular effort. The elephant in the room is that people thought twice about coming here today. Some of them took frightand cancelled their attendance for fear of being associated with an entity that has been marked as an enemy of the people.”

The opening remarks were followed by the panel “Israel – Democratic or Populist with the participation of Zulat’s executive director Einat Ovadia and Dr. Rawia Aburabia, a member of Zulat’s steering committee.

Einat presented Zulat’s latest report on the fake news phenomenon and our attendant legislative initiatives. “I am well aware of the potential danger of setting limits to freedom of expression, but the combination of fake news and unscrupulous populist politicians confronts us with the possibility of the destruction of the entire democratic system,” said Einat.

Dr. Rawia Aburabia said: “Populism slowly corrodes state apparatuses and gatekeepers, and like Hungary or Poland, one suddenly realizes that democracy is no more. Israel’s democratic space is shaky to begin with, as it is impossible to talk about a Western-like democracy in the face of the occupation and the Nationality Law.”

Another panel, “Corona’s Economic Victims,saw the participation of Dr. Maha Karkabi-Sabbah, a member of Zulat’s steering committee. “Women paid a heavier price than men did as a result of the corona pandemic,Maha said. An ethnic look reveals that marginalized minority groups such as the Arabs paid a higher price than strong groups like the Jews.”


Photos: Hadas Parush

1זהבה נואמת


Dr. Maha Sabbah Karkabi


Senior Lecturer in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. She holds a Ph.D. in Sociology from Tel Aviv University (2015), a postdoctoral fellowship at the Center for Gender Studies, SOAS, University of London (2015-2016), a postdoctoral fellowship in the Department of Sociology at Tel Aviv University (2016-2017), and a postdoctoral fellowship Ph.D. at the Humphrey Institute for Social Research, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (2018-2020).
Dr. Maha Karbahi’s areas of interest focus on the connection between social change, family behavior, and gender inequality in societies in the process of change and specifically in Palestinian Arab society in Israel. Her research draws attention to the study of family life and employment, using a combined “ethnic lens” and “gender lens” and paying attention to the perspective of Palestinian Arab women, a group characterized by intersections between multiple marginal locations, which over the years has remained hidden from the research eye. Dr. Karkabi-Sabah’s research is published in professional journals and chapters in scientific books that are considered pioneers in family research, work, and gender equality.


Prof. Frances Raday

Professor Emeritus in the Lieberman Chair in Labor Law, in the Faculty of Law at the Hebrew University and serves as a full professor in the College of Management’s academic track, where she also serves as chair of the graduate program and as honorary president of the Concord Center for International Law Absorption. Radai was a member of a working group of the UN Human Rights Council on discrimination against women. In addition, she is a prominent and feminist human rights activist.


Dr. Rawia Aburabia 

Faculty member of Sapir Academic College’s School of Law, received her PhD from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Her research deals with the interface between law, gender, minorities, and human rights. Has published in leading journals on the subject of the matrimonial laws pertaining to Muslim women in Israel. Her book Under the Law, Outside Justice: Polygamy, Gendered Citizenship, and Colonialism in Israeli Law is expected to be published as part of the Gender Series of Kibbutz Meuhad Publishing House.

Dr. Aburabia has extensive experience in international human rights and public law. She has worked as a jurist for the Association for Civil Right and has been invited as a specialist to address such international forums as the United Nations and the European Parliament on the subject of indigenous communities and minority rights. She has interned with Human Rights Watch in Washington DC, and has been a member of the executive board of Amnesty International. In 2018, she was selected by the magazine Globes as one of the 40 most promising young persons in Israel under the age of 40.



Ron Kessler

With over two decades of experience in the field of digital content, Ron has participated in numerous political and social campaigns. He helped run the digital activity of senior public officials, and worked in various NGOs. Ron is a fundamentally optimistic man, who believes that Israel can be changed and so can people. Lives in Tel Aviv.